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The women in Othello are presented by Shakespeare as victims. To what extent do you agree with this claim?

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1. 'The women in Othello are presented by Shakespeare as victims.' To what extent do you agree with this claim? This question requires knowledge of how women were treated during the period 'Othello' was written and how they are treated during modern days. When this play was written, The Jacobean era, an overwhelming amount of evidence suggests that women were treated as inferiors to men. Women would usually be viewed as pure and divine before having sexual intercourse, but afterwards, they were often treated as low down human beings. In general, they were allowed to be beaten, forced into labour and most did not have the right to an education. So the church would play an important role in everyday life for women, it was an occasion to look forward to. Every female church-goer would learn about the two biblical stereotypes for women, Mary and Eve. Mary was worshipped for being pure and flawless but Eve was castigated for her impurity and deceitfulness towards God. At the beginning of the play, Desdemona was apotheosised especially by Roderigo. She was named a white ewe in Act I, which highlighted her gentleness and purity. But similar in the way Mary and Eve are contrasted, Emilia is reified and treated as an object by Iago; this was the usual treatment for women during Jacobean times. ...read more.


In 'Othello' many people do not think of Cassio as the sexist type, he is portrayed to be well mannered and respectful up until he calls Emilia a 'common thing'. This surprises many of the audience who thought of Cassio as the sole man in the play who respects women. But Shakespeare was obliged to do this if he wanted to show the audience that Cassio was a 'normal' Jacobean man. This suggests that he thought it was standard for men to call women such belittling phrases. Emilia is portrayed as na�ve and desperate when she is first introduced, she is so distant from her husband that she has no idea of what Iago has been trying to do. The most astonishing example is that after he steals the handkerchief for Iago, she still appears to have no idea of what he is trying to do, she just wants to do "nothing but please his fantasy." Despite being made out to be the most na�ve woman in the play, she is the only woman to show signs of courage and feminism in her words. One of the first moments to do this is when she refers to men as 'stomachs'. ...read more.


But Shakespeare, during Jacobean times, may not have been seen to present women as particular victims of this play. In modern day life many people will agree that he is on the border of extremity with the amount of sexism in 'Othello' whether or not he wanted women to be victims of this play. Many people will agree that the women are victimised by Iago and the people Iago he has manipulated. Othello was an equal if not greater victim than Desdemona, not because he died but he was a victim of his own gullibility, 'his or her own emotions or ignorance'. He did not once think of believing what Desdemona said or even placing all his trust in her, his wife. So he is a much greater victim in this play than Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca put together. Although there are an overwhelming amount of incidents to show that women have suffered from this play, Shakespeare may have hidden a few signs of feminism in what Emilia said and the way Bianca stood up against the Jacobean stereotypes. We will never know why Shakespeare wrote this play, whether it was to be derogatory towards black men or perhaps to explore the possibilities of defying the sexist and racist stereotypes of Jacobean times. Michael Needham ...read more.

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